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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Investigating the Eyewitness Accounts of Jesus Christ (Part 1 of 2)

Investigating the Eyewitness Accounts of Jesus Christ (Part 1 of 2)

Through his own faith journey and the context of his police-work analogies, J. Warner Wallace will provide a compelling evangelistic message that will challenge nonbelievers and inspire Christians to be bolder in their faith. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: February 2, 2023

J. Warner Wallace: When you’re in a tough spot, you will end up defaulting, like muscle memory, to what you know is evidentially true. And so I want my kids, as I raise them, I hope that they know that this is evidentially true. And you’re not gonna- you’re gonna have a traj-, you’re gonna have a tough time, and you’re gonna be tempted to say, “Where’s God in this?” But if you know that this worldview can stop bullets, you will stand in the gunfight. And so, I think we have to uh, help our kids to understand that this is not just my wishful thinking, or one of many options that will make your life better-

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: … but this is actually true-

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: … and it will stop bullets.

John Fuller: That’s Jim Wallace describing how our faith in Jesus Christ is like a bulletproof vest. We can trust the message of the gospel with our lives. And if you have any doubts or questions about what the bible says, if you wonder if God is real, then this episode of Focus on the Family is for you. Stick with us. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, I love to think about and study the early church. It’s just uh, one of the hobbies, I guess you might say. Uh, the disciples and the first followers of Jesus were living in very exciting times. Certainly dangerous-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … uh, but also full of wonder and amazement at what God was doing in their midst. And uh, they were helping spread the good news like wildfire throughout the known world of their time, and I’m profoundly challenged by that witness. You know, I asked myself this question, “Would I be willing to change what I have today and live their life, knowing I’d be martyred?”

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That’s an interesting question to ask yourself, I hope the answer would be yes. Um, but the passion those early Christians had to, willingly, give up everything, including their lives, for the sake of the gospel is quite impressive. I- in many ways, I think they put us modern Christians to shame because of their zeal for the Lord. That’s the kind of faith I wanna have. And I hope everyone watching and hearing this program today feels the same way because the Lord has a purpose and a plan for each one of us, and all he needs is our willing hearts to do great things in his name in this generation.

John: Mm-hmm. Well, our guest today sure has a similar passion, Jim, to what you just expressed. He wants to inspire and motivate the Christian community to share our faith boldly and uh, defend the truth of the gospel.

Jim: Well, I’m thrilled to feature J. Warner Wallace, Jim Wallace, on this episode of Focus on the Family. He’s a homicide detective who’s been involved in law enforcement for more than 25 years. Uh, now, Jim was raised as an atheist, and proud to be one at that time, until he was challenged to consider the New Testament claims about Jesus. And that led him to an important journey to discover the truth, which we’re gonna hear more about today. And whether or not you’re a Christian, or have any kind of religious background, I wanna challenge you to have an open mind about Jim’s powerful message. It could very well change your life forever.

John: Mm-hmm. Jim Wallace is a popular author and speaker. He’s written a number of books, and the one we’ll hear about today is called Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. We’ll have details about the book and our guest when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And now here’s, Jim, how you began the conversation with J. Warner Wallace on today’s Focus on the Family.

Jim: Man, Jim, I’m so excited to have you here. Uh, before we get into the details of your story, um, and the great content in your book… By the way, my wife loves your book-

J. Warner: Oh, wow. That’s a- that’s-

Jim: … and she loves the audio version, she’s listening to it. She just-

J. Warner: Oh, good.

Jim: She just has really connected with the content, and I have too.

J. Warner: Well, I’m honored.

Jim: And uh, but we do need, um, some definitions. That’s a good thing for us to-

J. Warner: Sure.

Jim: … do at the beginning here. 

J. Warner: Yep.

Jim: So, what is a cold case and how is that relevant to your investigation of the New Testament?

J. Warner: Well, okay. So- so, um, the only kind of cold case you have are cold case homicides. Because every other crime, uh, closes by statute. The laws will say that, “Hey, if you commit a robbery and a certain number of years go by, depending on the state, that we are not uh, legally allowed to come back after you.” Because, you know, every- everyone who’s been accused deserves an opportunity to defend themselves. And if so many- too many years go by, you really don’t have that a- ability to effectively defend yourself. So, the only thing that stays open, by statute, are murders. So, what typically happens is… I’ve worked robbery/homicide for a number of years in Los Angeles county, and then I started working on our cold case homicides. And what you find in these red books for unsolved murders… ‘Cause we have the red notebooks in our- our vault, every red notebook is an unsolved. I just took all those notebooks off the- the shelves and I looked in them, and I realized that sometimes you have a number of supplemental reports in those notebooks, written by a detective years ago, who interviewed a witness. But now, 35 years later, both the witness and the detective are not available to me. The witness has passed away, maybe the detective is unavailable for any number of reasons.

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: And so, now I’ve gotta figure out like, what happened? Did this really happen? Even though I have no access to the eyewitness anymore and no access to the report writer. Well, that’s kind of what I discovered as I first looked at the gospels when I was 35. I’ve got no access to the uh, eyewitnesses, no access to the report writers, how would I know if any of those gospels are telling me anything true about Jesus? Well, that’s the same skills that I’ve been using for years, so I just applied it to the gospels.

Jim: And we’re gonna unpack that. I’m excited. That’s a great summary of uh, you know, how you got going, and I’m looking forward to the discussion. Uh, first though, I- I- I do wanna paint that picture of where you were at um, spiritually, back then-

J. Warner: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … when you’re pulling these red uh, files of the shelf. You kind of, uh, weren’t really connected with the Lord at that point, right?

J. Warner: Well, and I didn’t know any Christians growing up except for the few people I worked with who had- had- for the most part, couldn’t answer some of the- you know, m-… Uh, I was probably not just asking honest questions though. I was probably, to be honest, I was really more um, aggressive, kind of, um, I thought-

Jim: Well, angry atheist. Is that the word you used? (laughs)

J. Warner: I kind of thought that- yeah, that Christians are just uh, silly. Um, either-

Jim: Okay.

J. Warner: … they can’t answer the questions I would ask or, two, um, they were the k- people that were taken to jail, which was often the case. And I just thought, “Either they don’t take this seriously, or they don’t…” In either case, they’re not living like it’s true, uh, the Christians I met who I was taking to jail. So, I- but my wife, you know, she was interested in going to church. We had, at that time, a six and an eight-year-old. So, she-

Jim: It would be good for the kids.

J. Warner: It’d be good for the kids.

Jim: Yep.

J. Warner: Uh, and I thought, “Well…” Uh, I mean, my dad’s kind of got a similar approach, he would’ve- he’s not a believer but he would have been happy to go to church ’cause he thought it was a useful delusion. So, I decided I would go the same way just to kind of honor her. Um, and that’s when I heard… The pastor was a rel- relatively ordinary looking guy.

Jim: (laughs)

J. Warner: You know, like-

Jim: You’re sizing everything up as a cop.

J. Warner: I- I- I know-

Jim: It’s so funny.

J. Warner: Well, ’cause I walk in, it’s a big-

Jim: He was 5’9-

J. Warner: Yeah.

Jim: … approximately 140 pounds.

J. Warner: E- exactly.

Jim: He walked with a limp.

J. Warner: Yeah. A-

Jim: (laughs)

J. Warner: And he was in this big box church. You know, it was- it was a big mega church. Uh, I’d never been in a church like this before. Uh, he came on the stage, he was just dressed like- like, kind of like I would be dressed, and- and he said that Jesus was the smartest man who ever lived, along with a bunch of other stuff he said that day. And when he said that, that intrigued me enough-

Jim: Huh.

J. Warner: … to want to buy a bible. And I bought a- a little red pew bible, uh, I think at like a- at- back when we used to have that thing called a bookstore.

Jim: (laughs)

J. Warner: Believe it or not, there were bookstores back then.

Jim: They had Christian bookstores. (laughs)

J. Warner: Yes. I mean, so… I don’t even think it was a Christian bookstore-

Jim: (laughs)

J. Warner: … I think it was like, a- just a regular bookstore but it had a- a Christian section, a religion section-

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: … and there was just a pew bible.

Jim: Okay.

J. Warner: So it was like a sophisticated bible, I think it was like seven dollars, six or seven dollars.

Jim: Right. 

J. Warner: And I bought that bible and- and I started to read through the gospels, just to see what’s so smart about Jesus. But, here’s what you discover. When you read through the gospel accounts… And- and two of these are alleged eyewitnesses, right? John and Matthew. Two are allegedly writing from eyewitness sources, Luke says this in the first chapter of his gospel. And Mark, according to church tradition, he is writing the account of Pierre. So, I- I just thought to myself as I’m reading, “Well, can I just figure out what- what did Jesus say that was so smart?” That’s really all I wanna know.

Jim: (laughs)

J. Warner: But as I’m reading through there, I realized these are- these are people who want me to believe that these things happened in a certain event order, a certain sequence at a certain time in history at a certain place on the planet. These are- are alleged eyewitness accounts. And so, I just decided to test them the way you would test any eyewitness account.

Jim: Just describe for us a little bit of that training, what- what that looks like, uh-

J. Warner: Well, so- so a lot of this is, um, I always say it this way, that if- if the game uh, for- for me was talking to right now, is just make sure I record everything you say. Well, that’s a- one kind of a game and that means I’m gonna probably take copious notes about everything you’re saying. And I’m really listening carefully and taking those notes, and I’m not really- I’m just trying to get the facts. Get the facts.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

J. Warner: But if the game is spot the lie, that’s a different game.

Jim: Huh.

J. Warner: And that means I’m gonna assume some things are- I’m gonna assume that pretty much everything is a lie until I prove it otherwise. But now I’m- I’m doing- I’m looking at other things. I’m looking at how you’re saying it, I’m looking at what you’re leaving out when you could have included it. I’m looking at a lot of things that will tell me where the lie is, deception indicators, all that stuff. Well, that’s a different game. And so, a lot of what my background coming into this, is that I knew how to test eyewitnesses. We test eyewitnesses based on 13 questions in the California Jury Instructions, right? Those 13 questions come back to four areas. Were they really there to see what they said they saw? So, were they present? Two, um, can they be corroborated in some way? Even though I don’t- I don’t expect it to be robust. It could be something very small. ‘Cause that’s always the case in corroboration. If you told me you saw him jump the counter and- and scream at the teller, well, I could go back to the counter. If I find a palm print, that palm print would corroborate your statement, but it would tell me nothing about what he wore-

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: … or what he said. It gives me a small fraction of your overall statement, but I am looking for fractions of corroboration. So, I am looking for that, that’s number two. Number three, um, is he honest and accurate over time, or does he change his story? And then number four, does he have a bias that would cause him to lie to me? So, those are the four criteria we look at for every eyewitness. And I thought, “Well, if you apply those to the gospel authors, how do they do?”

Jim: (laughs) That is-

J. Warner: That’s what I wanted to know.

Jim: (laughs) And we’re- and we’re gonna talk about that.

J. Warner: Yeah.

Jim: Yeah, there’s so much to- to get to. One of the things you mention in the book is presuppositions that, initially, can interfere with your search for the truth. Describe presuppositions and what… Uh, y- you’re kind of alluding to that, I’m sure, those-

J. Warner: Yeah, and you can’t… What it comes down to is you… Uh, what I try to do is… ‘Cause people always ask me, like, “What are these..?” Everyone wants to be a detective, and everyone kind of is because we watch these shows on TV and you do k- pick up some skills just from watching fiction. Uh, and you also watch a lot of, you know, Datelines and other things where you’re watching uh, true investigations. So, everyone’s got some sense of what we do. Um, but one of the things we have to be careful about, and it’s so foundation that it almost sounds silly saying it, is that you can’t assume you know answers before you’ve l- you know, you- i- identify them evidentially. So, you… Uh, look, most of the homicides I’m working, um, the- uh, it’s sad but true, is the- most of them are spousal. You know, that you- you- you’re gonna be killed by somebody who’s probably in your proximity, and most of the time it’s a relational proximity.

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: So, a lot of people get killed by their spouse. But when you walk in and you’ve got a dead wife, uh, you could assume upfront, you should be suspicious of everyone-

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: … but you can’t assume, “Oh, I already know who did this. It’s the spouse. It’s always the spouse. What’s the point in looking anywhere else? It’s the spouse.” And I’ve had cases like that, I describe one in the book, where you walk in-

Jim: Wasn’t that a- a first and early case you had?

J. Warner: It was a pretty early case as a-

Jim: With- with the lead-

J. Warner: … as a homicide detective, yeah.

Jim: Yeah, with the lead, uh-

J. Warner: And there was… Yeah.

Jim: Yeah, tell us.

J. Warner: Well, I had a guy who was 15 years senior to me, he was uh, the lead investigator. And I remember he was really smart and uh, gruff. He was honest, he’d tell you what you did wrong. And uh, but I remember that day, he came in and it was a woman who was- we found her in her bedroom, she was murdered. And so, right away, we’re- we don’t know anything about her, but right away we’re looking for uh, spouse relationships. You know, it’s gonna be-

Jim: A suspect.

J. Warner: Yeah. And it turns out… And so, we wasted about a week because we presupposed we knew the answer. It’s good- listen, it’s good to chase all the leads.

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: But we were so focused on the idea that either a boyfriend or a h- spouse had killed her that we missed the fact that it was the neighbor. Just a neighbor, not related to her at all. And, you know, there’s proximity but it wasn’t relational proximity, it was geographic proximity.

Jim: Huh.

J. Warner: It’s almost always proximity that gets ya-

Jim: But one of those two.

J. Warner: … but it was one of those two.

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: So that’s why, you know, you can’t assume upfront. And this is what I think happens… Uh, I have s- made many assumptions about the Christian worldview, about the claims of the gospels, we all do as non-believers. We make certain assumptions… Well, one of the biggest assumptions I made was just, I did not believe in anything miraculous.

Jim: Right. Is that naturalism, like you- you point it out in the book?

J. Warner: Naturalism. Yeah, I’m just super committed… Like, you’re not gonna suggest-

Jim: What you see is what’s true.

J. Warner: Yes, if you can’t-

Jim: Period.

J. Warner: It’s- if you can’t- if it’s not caused by space, time, matter, physics, and chemistry, it’s not caused. It’s not- it’s not- it’s- it doesn’t… N- uh, nothing’s happened.

Jim: Okay. You, the listener, I mean, y- I know some of you are thinking, “Okay, that’s me.”

J. Warner: Well, that’s all of us.

Jim: Or, “That’s my spouse,” or, “That’s my friend.” I mean, these are the things… This is what excites me about doing this program. Because, again, you come at it as a skeptic. You were an atheist, you’re not predisposed to believing Jesus’ truth claims. Many people listening and watching right now are in- in that same spot.

J. Warner: Well, and let’s look at it this way. The minute I would’ve said- the minute you insert um, a- a supernatural agency into any historical narrative, you’re no longer doing historical narratives, you’re now doing mythology. Because we don’t- we don’t… I’m not gonna go to a death scene and say, “I wonder if a demon caused this.” We’re gonna go to death scenes and look for, you know, uh, naturalistic suspects. (laughs)

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: The same thing is true, I would’ve said, in science. You cannot insert supernaturalism into science, you’re not doing science anymore. But those are presuppositions that we make philosophically. In other words, we decide that we’re not gonna accept anything supernatural, as a matter of personal preference. It’s an assumption we don’t have to make, we just make it. So, I- when I’m reading through the gospels, I’m like, “Okay, I could believe some things about Jesus, but this miracle stuff clearly can’t be true.”

Jim: (laughs)

J. Warner: So one of the things I had to ask myself is, “Okay, how do I get a universe though? Where all of the science points to a universe that came into existence from nothing. In other words, the science says that all space, time, and matter came into existence from nothing. Not from another spatial environment involving time or matter, but it has to come into existence from something outside of space, time, and matter. That’s just standard cosmological model, that’s just big bang cosmology.

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: Well, if I believe that, that there’s something s- extra natural… ‘Cause if it’s outside of space, time, and matter, it’s extra natural.

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: So, uh, if there’s something extra natural that caused the universe to come into existence, then every miracle we’re reading in the New Testament is, what I call, a small potato miracle. Right? It’s not a big deal.

Jim: Well, it’s interesting, uh, uh, I would love for you to interview some of these, still, atheist scientists that- you know, like Dawkins or others-

J. Warner: Yeah.

Jim: … and put your skills to the test with them. ‘Cause uh, typically, what I’ve heard in debates from these people, is they take you back to the bang-

J. Warner: Right.

Jim: … and they say, “Science can’t really talk about what happens before that-“

J. Warner: Right.

Jim: “… ’cause we don’t know.”

J. Warner: Because you imagine- because you imagine-

Jim: So, there’s an out clause.

J. Warner: Yes. There’s a-

Jim: (laughs)

J. Warner: So- so you can imagine… Uh, this is what I see all the time. Uh, I- I think there’s like eight things about the universe that I think have to be explained, and one of them is just the origin of the universe, but also the fine tuning we see in the universe, the origin of life, the appearance and design of biology, um, the- uh, consciousness, mind and consciousness, free agency-

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: A lot of atheists deny both of those things ’cause they can’t explain them. And, you know, even objective moral truths-

Jim: Good and evil.

J. Warner: … and even a standard of righteousness-

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: … by which we cause- call something evil. Here’s what I see uh, um, the atheist friends will do. They’ll say, “Well, yeah. I can’t- we can’t explain that, we can’t… But we are on the road to explaining it.” In other words, someday, science will explain this. Could you imagine if we said, “Hey, you know what? I can’t explain that but someday when I’m in front of God, God will tell me.”

Jim: (laughs) Yeah, right.

J. Warner: I don’t think they’re gonna allow us that God of the Gaps. You know, “We can’t explain it, therefore God.” What they’re doing is, “We can’t explain it, therefore science.” And it’s the same as just science of the gaps.

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: So I think, in the end, those are- are good places to start. And the answer of what we don’t know yet presumes that when we finally do know, it will not involve God. Well, how do we know that?

Jim: Right. (laughs)

J. Warner: Right? That’s the presupposition we have to avoid.

Jim: Yeah. Yeah.

J. Warner: So, that’s why I think it is important to avoid presuppositions-

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: … in any investigation, especially criminal investigations.

Jim: Abductive reasoning, let’s get that definition. I’m kind of trying to lay the-

J. Warner: Yeah, the foundation.

Jim: … the groundwork here so we can crack this big discussion open. But, abductive reasoning…

J. Warner: Well, that’s one of the things we all do. Everyone does it. Uh, we do it in jury trials, for sure. But if you’ve got a kid, you’ve been doing it as your teenager has been f- growing up, I’m sure you’ve been doing it too. It’s simply, uh, where we make two lists that begin with an E. One is a list of evidence, one’s a list of explanations. And we ask ourselves, which of these explanations best fits the evidence? So when your- your s- son stumbles in the morning in- in from a late night and you ask him, “Uh, where were you last night?” Uh, he- he’s gonna give you may-… There’s s- several ways to explain where he was. You have to kind of figure out which of these explanations best fits the evidence before your own eyes right now.

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: Well, the same thing is true in- in- in death scenes. We’re- we’re looking, there’s four ways to die. Uh, accidentals, naturals, suicides, and homicides. There’s only four ways to die. But when you walk into a death scene, it’s not necessarily a murder. It could be a natural, it could be a suicide, it could be an accidental. And how you discover the difference is by looking what the evidence says and just asking yourself the question, “I know this is evidentially true so the explanation of suicide, does that work? I know this is what’s here in the room evidentially, does the explanation accidental actually work?” And we just figure out which of these explanations, accidental, suicide, h- uh, you know, a natural or homicide, best makes sense of the evidence. This is sometimes called just inferring to the most reasonable explanation-

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: … or it’s called abductive reasoning. All of us do it. It’s a reasonable way to determine what is true evidentially so you don’t have to be like, lost in the- the- the complex logic of how we’re gonna do this.

Jim: Let’s st- steer this back to the existence of Jesus.

J. Warner: Okay.

Jim: Uh, there are many naysayers who’ve disputed, uh, the empty tomb, as an example. Uh, they believe Jesus didn’t really die, or his disciples stole the body.

J. Warner: Right.

Jim: You- you start coming up with excuses to fit the evidence-

J. Warner: That’s right.

Jim: … the objective evidence.

J. Warner: That’s right.

Jim: So, w- w- how do you apply the investigative theories to that specific thing, that maybe somebody just took Jesus out of the tomb?

J. Warner: Well, this is why I think that abductive reasoning is a good uh, skillset to learn and it has great value in investigating the claims of j- of the gospel authors. Because look at it this way, we have certain… I would’ve said using evidence, as an atheist, I would’ve said, “Well, I’ll give you certain things. I’m not a Jesus myther, right?” There’s these folks who will claim that Jesus never even lived. I think that’s- that’s a silly claim. I’ve written about that in a couple of books, but it’s a silly claim. But I would’ve said that Jesus lived and died on a cross, but that doesn’t mean he rose from the dead. That doesn’t mean anything in the New Testament is actually true. He could be a first century sage who died on a cross. But I would’ve given you that Jesus lived. I would’ve given you that, “Okay, he’s a- he’s an ancient sage who probably was- was executed by the Romans. Fine.” Uh, people ce- certainly said they saw him afterwards, I don’t know if that’s true or not. But the claims that they said they saw him are pretty uncontroversial. Somebody said they saw the risen Christ. And finally, I would’ve said, “Well, there’s an empty tomb, for example. If there wasn’t an empty tomb, if you had the body of Jesus, this would be game over in the first century.”

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: Well, there’s like six explanations I would’ve h- tried to offer as an atheist. Either they were lying about it or they were mistaken about it, or he didn’t really die on the cross, or they were conned by somebody who pretended to be Jesus, or they never said he was- rose from the grave and that’s just a- a story that developed over time. In other words, I would’ve said, “I- I can explain that five or six ways that all point to the fact that Christianity is false.” Now there’s a seventh ex- explanation, that’s the Christian explanation, that he just rose from the grave. Okay, so-

Jim: (laughs) Right, that’s true.

J. Warner: But it goes on your list. And now go back through your list and see which of these explanations best fits the evidence. Now, here’s what I always say, “Every explanation for evidence has strengths and weaknesses.” Even the true explanation in a criminal trial, uh, it’ll have some strengths, explanatory strengths, and there’ll be some weaknesses ’cause I don’t everything that could be known.

Jim: And that’s what good lawyers exploit-

J. Warner: That’s- th- they exploit.

Jim: … are those weaknesses-

J. Warner: Exactly.

Jim: … even in the truth. 

J. Warner: And this is true even for the Christian explanation.

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: It has strengths, in that it explains the evidence better than any other explanation, but it has a weakness. And the weakness is that it- that it- it requires a resurrection. And I would’ve said, “Well, that’s supernatural.”

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: And there’s the weakness, I’m a naturalist. That can’t be concluded. And that’s why thinking deeply about the nature of the universe helped me to overcome the one and only weakness of the Christian explanation. ‘Cause from a historical perspective, it best explains all of the evidence but it’s weakness is- is that it requires a resurrection. And then once you’re over yourself and the presupposition that nothing supernatural could ever happen, well now, suddenly, this becomes the, by far, best explanation for the evidence.

Jim: Mm-hmm. Jim, let me ask you a- a question. Uh, family members, let’s just use that, uh, proximity description.

J. Warner: The sc- the scariest, uh-

Jim: The f- yeah, the scariest-

J. Warner: Yeah. Family members, yes.

Jim: … they know you best.

J. Warner: That’s right.

Jim: And- uh, but kind of that, you can present the evidence, you can talk about it, you could do it winsomely, you could do it at Christmas, you could do it at Thanksgiving, (laughs) you could it-

J. Warner: Yeah.

Jim: … at whatever time of year. But you have these discussions and you- you- you know, with everything in your heart, as a Christian, you wanna see your family in heaven, right?

J. Warner: Yes.

Jim: And then you have that one person who is stubborn as can be, you can present all this kind of evidence but they just- they do revolutions in denial.

J. Warner: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, no matter what you put in front of them, you know-

J. Warner: Oh, that would have been me for a number of years. Yeah.

Jim: … “It’s all silly, it’s all ridiculous. I’m sorry, I don’t believe it. I love you-“

J. Warner: Right.

Jim: “… but I just don’t believe it. I think you’re chasing Peter Pan.”

J. Warner: Right. 

Jim: Where- where do you go with that? I mean, how do you keep in the fight? And what I mean is, the right fight.

J. Warner: Yeah. Yeah, right.

Jim: You know, how do you keep in the spiritual battle with that loved one and not just grow so fatigued to say, “I- Lord, I give up.”

J. Warner: I know. Well, a couple of things. And the first thing is really simple, like, I don’t put everyone who walks in for jury duty, we don’t put them all on the jury.

Jim: (laughs)

J. Warner: We have a voir dire process, right, where we p- figure out, are- is th- are these folks qualified to sit on the jury panel? And we might go from a hundred people in the room down to twelve and four alternates. So, we’re gonna get from 100 to 16. It’s jury selection. How it typically works is this. The whole room is full of people, some are pro prosecution, some are pro defense.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

J. Warner: Of those people who are pro prosecution, pro defense, some are so pro prosecution, they would never allo- th- th-… As soon as you walk in wearing a jumpsuit, at the end of the defendant’s table, they assume you’re guilty. I call those ones. There are twos, they’re pro prosecution but they’re fair. There are threes, they are pro defense and they’re fair. There are fours, they’re so pro defense that if a police officer is testifying, they assume upfront he’s lying. Well, what we do, prosecutors and defense attorneys, we eliminate ones and fours. We want twos and threes. People who might be on one side of the issue or the other, but they’re open and fair enough to do the right thing.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

J. Warner: We know you’re gonna be on one side or the other. Now, in your family right now, there’s probably people who are divided between people who are receptive to the gospel and people who aren’t, and there’s a one to four spectrum. People who are so convinced that Christianity’s true that even if it could be- if it could be demonstrated to be false, which it can’t but if it could, they’d still stay in. Because they think it’s useful, they love it, they love the celebrations, they love… There’s twos, they’re Christians but they’re- they have questions sometimes. There are threes, they’re not Christians but they sometimes wonder if there is a God. And then there are fours, there are anti-theists, “Don’t even talk to me about this. It’s all foolishness. Stop.” Well, we don’t panel fours on juries, and we don’t- I don’t panel fours in these conversations either. The question I’m asking myself is, “Where is this relative of mine on the jury spectrum?”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

J. Warner: And- and there are zero, ones who are so committed to Christianity, they’ll say, “Well, you don’t need to make a case to me. Uh, uh, it’s- all this evidence stuff is ridiculous.” I just had somebody this morning on Instagram post this, “This is… I- I- I believe without any evidence and that’s true belief.” And I always ask the question, “Well, do you have kids? Do you have students? Do you have kids in school? They’re probably not ones, they’re probably twos or threes.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

J. Warner: And they don’t wanna listen to Jim Wallace on this, they wanna know what mom and dad say about this issue. So if you’re a one, and you think there’s no- “I- I’m so committed to the Christian worldview, I don’t even need you to make a case for it,” are you able to make the case for your own kids?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

J. Warner: ‘Cause they need you to make the case, not me. And if you’re a four, I have a strategy for fours. And I- I- sure, I’m gonna share something with fours, especially if I’m at Thanksgiving or at a- a birthday party-

Jim: Right. (laughs)

J. Warner: … or if I’m at Easter, I make some-

Jim: You’d be fun to bring to Thanksgiving, let me tell you.

J. Warner: Well, but if you- if you’re gonna ask a question, “I don’t believe this. This is silly, this is foolish, this is n- uh, you know, this is fiction,” well, I’d ask, “Well, what- why do you..?” Ask good questions, “Why do you..?” Be ready to answer people’s questions when they approach you. But more importantly, fours, I don’t necessarily spend a lot of time trying to make a case for fours. They’re fours. But here’s what I do, is you pray and model Christ for fours. Because only God can move the four to a three-

Jim: Mm-hmm. 

J. Warner: … and then you can share the gospel with them.

Jim: And you’re speaking from a former four position.

J. Warner: Oh, I was in a four position.

Jim: You were the four plus.

J. Warner: Yeah, I think my dad has been a four. I- I see him now, kind of moving toward three, and I- I think, “Okay.” So- so we just wanna not do anything to damage that transition from four to three. Don’t- don’t let me be such a jerk in front of him.

Jim: Right.

J. Warner: I need to model Christ for him-

Jim: Yeah.

J. Warner: … and I need to ask God to make this move, and I’m sure people were doing that for me.

John: Such great insights today from our guest on Focus on the Family, J. Warner Wallace, as he describes how and why we need to be ready to share our faith with conviction. Because the evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is irrefutable.

Jim: And John, I’m reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 9, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” There are so many people who are blind to God’s love and truth, or have a distorted view of Christianity, much like Jim Wallace did. That’s why we need more laborers, uh, more committed believers, who will boldly live out their faith and become powerful witnesses for the gospel. Uh, this resource, Cold-Case Christianity, uh, it will equip you to do just that. And we can put a copy into your hands when you make a monthly pledge of any amount to Focus on the Family. That’s our way of saying thanks for standing with us to support marriages, encourage parents, save pre-born babies, and so much more. And if a monthly pledge is more than you can afford right now, uh, we get that. A one-time gift will also greatly help. Let’s work together to strengthen today’s families and share the good news of Jesus.

John: Donate and request your copy of the book from J. Warner Wallace when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And if you’d like more information about what it means to be a follower of Jesus, we have a free booklet or download that’s called Coming Home. And it explains how you can experience God’s forgiveness and reconciliation into his family forever. Contact us today to get your copy. Detective Wallace returns next time to debunk the Jesus conspiracy and describes how the truth claims of the New Testament transformed his life. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time as we, once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Cold-Case Christianity

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